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Adding Weight to Your Pull Ups

Adding weight to pull ups is one of the key methods of progressing once you’ve established the ability to perform repetitions. However, doing this effectively isn’t just as simple as slapping some additional weight on and treating it as another day.

Doing your weighted pull ups correctly, at the right time in your training, is key to getting the most from them.

Why

First, why should you add weight to pull ups?

The obvious answer is that you can – or that your pull ups just don’t feel like they’re doing anything anymore. If you’re able to do a whole bunch of pull ups and you’re not feeling the training effect you used to, weight can bring back the stimulus and benefits of a pull up.

The point is to add weight to overload muscles. This is why you load other exercises like the squat or lunge – they’re just not as difficult to do with bodyweight in the first place!

Weighting a pull up allows you to add additional mechanical tension to the muscles, which is the basis for muscular growth and provides a way of training more effectively for strength and size.

It’s also a way of providing variety to your training. Before adding weight, the ways of varying your pull up workouts is mostly just how many reps you use per set, how much rest you take, or the technique of the reps.

Weight adds a new tool to your training toolkit, if you can do it. However, this does raise the key question…

When

This is actually relatively simple: add weight to your pull ups when you are able to and when you’re going to be able to maintain performance and technical positions.

There’s no benefit to rushing weighted pull ups and, if you’re not able to do them strictly, there’s no point adding weight. If you’re compensating in the movement itself to make it easier, there’s no point adding weight to make it more difficult – they just cancel out.

One common question is how many pull ups you should be able to do before you add weight. This is entirely dependent on how you do your pull ups, and also how much weight you’re planning on adding.

The less weight you’re going to add, the sooner you can start. Adding 5kg to your bodyweight isn’t going to be too tough, so you can probably start at the 6-10 pull up per set region.

However, we recommend giving yourself the best joint-conditioning and strength/control during the movement. Once you can perform sets of 10-12 pull ups, you should start performing sets of 6+ pull ups with some weight.

Weighted pull ups are an amazing exercise, but you shouldn’t rush your body to try and perform them. It’s a process of developing strength, and your body responds to sustainable overload.

How

The weighted vest is probably the best way of adding additional load to a pull up since it doesn’t change the balance of the movement and you’re going to be able to use the exact same technique.

The problem is that weighted vests tend to be both expensive and have a relatively low weight – most of them weighing around 15kg. This might be a lot now, but as you progress with weighted pull ups it is going to become too light.

The alternative is a d belt, which offers ways of loading that are more changeable, allowing you more control, but you have to buy weights separately and the positioning of the weight may change how the movement feels.

Consider your goals and what you want to achieve with your pull ups – we can’t tell you which is best. However, now you know what they’re best for, you can weigh it up with your own needs!

How to Progress Weighted Pull Ups

The point of progressing a weighted pull up is to build the muscles and connective tissues to sustainably progress. This is difficult in the bodyweight movements since the shoulders are at risk if you’re not controlling the movement from start to finish.

We always recommend improving your repetitions and sets before adding more weight. Adding training volume is a great way to build the strength and tissue-resilience to support that next few kilos and ensure your shoulders and elbows stay healthy as you progress.

Here’s a brief example of how we recommend progressing your weighted pull up:

Week 1

Workout one: 4 sets of 6 with 5kg

Workout two: 3 sets of 6 with bodyweight

Workout three: 6 sets of 5 with 5kg

Week 2

Workout one: 3 sets of 8 with 5kg

Workout two: 3 sets of 8 with bodyweight

Workout three: 6 sets of 6 with 5kg

Week 3

Workout one: 3 sets of 10 with 5kg

Workout two: 3 sets of 6 with bodyweight

Workout three:  4 sets of 8 with 5kg

 

Then repeat this 3-week block with another 5kg! This can be performed multiple times and offers a way of improving your

This provides your body with the tissue-conditioning necessary to support future loading. It’s also good to accumulate volume to build muscle and keep your technique consistent as you add weight.

Stay behind the wave of adaptation: don’t work yourself to absolute failure unless you absolutely need to. Progressing steadily means progressing longer and constant development!

Our final thoughts

The pull up is a key exercise for utilising a wide variety of muscle through the upper back and producing amazing upper back, shoulder, and core strength. Weight only compounds these benefits if you do it right!

There’s value t adding weight, but it has to be performed and progress properly. It’s a process that requires a lot from your body and charging into it is a bad idea. However, you should become comfortable and familiar with weighted pull ups as soon as your body and technique allow.

Adding weight to your pull ups adds a whole new dimension to training, which also means a new potential for progress and results!

Making Home Bodyweight Training Easier

When it comes to pull ups, there’s no better training tool than consistent, frequent training. You can make this possible by getting your own complete, in-home calisthenics workout solution. The Pull Up Mate – and Pull Up Mate 2 – are comprehensive pull up bars for any home that offer a wide variety of bodyweight training options.

Still not convinced? Check out our products page to get a better idea of what you’re missing out on – and how Pull Up Mate can help you go from lat pulldowns to weighted pull ups!